Combining Freeman's avuncular narration, interviews with experts and visionaries, amazing graphics, and globetrotting -- er, rather -- universe-trotting locations, Wormhole somehow navigates an entertaining and comprehensible path through such pithy topics as "Life After Death," "Does Time Exist?" "How Does the Universe Work?" "Can We Live Forever?" and tonight's "What Do Aliens Look Like?"
I come away from every episode amazed, edified, and deep in thought.
Being that television this penetrating and cutting edge is nearly alone in the universe, even in the era of 500 channels, I sought to enter the wormhole of the Wormhole -- so to speak -- and asked the show's exec producer and VP of Production for SCIENCE, Bernadette McDaid, a few questions about the series.
How did you conceive of the show? Where did Morgan Freeman enter into the picture?
We had learned that Morgan was always intrigued by physics and met with he and his producing partner Lori McCreary and the Revelations Entertainment team about developing something unique for our audience. What was born was Through The Wormhole, one of SCIENCE's biggest hits, which consistently drives new fans to the channel every Wednesday at 10pm ET/PT.
How involved is he in the development of themes? We see him relate the big questions to events from his childhood as the beginning of each ep - how are those segments developed?
Freeman and McCreary are very involved, as is my entire SCIENCE development team in the themes that are tackled each season. Revelations' entire goal is to develop and produce compelling human stories. We start with a concept and decide if is there a story behind this, a human element that we can bring in order to make it accessible, compelling and provoking for our die-hard fans. We feel we have accomplished that and the results can be seen every week, especially with our season finale of "What Do Aliens Look Like?"
How do you pick the concepts to cover?
We've got a great partner in Revelations led by Morgan Freeman and Lori McCreary. We are all very collaborative in our efforts every season to make sure we have a diverse set of topics that have enough material in order to provide a balanced hour of storytelling. We brainstorm concepts before the season begins and often turn to our viewers for feedback via our Facebook, Twitter and ScienceChannel.com portals.
How do you walk the line between "dumbing down" and conveying sometimes very difficult concepts?
Our audience is very savvy and smart. We do not dumb down any of our concepts but do our best to make them more accessible to our growing audience. We don't want science to just be viewed as men in a lab with white coats on. It is just as important to pose the question and provoke the thought as it is to find the answer.
That is key to every episode of Wormhole: we tackle one question per episode and find the most diverse and profound scientists on the subject. They don't always agree and offer varying perspectives but it is all about initiating the conversation.
How sustainable is the series in terms of concepts to cover?
We really see Wormhole as one of our staple programs. It provides a "deep dive" into science that our viewers crave that can't be found anywhere else on television. The questions are endless and we can go in many directions. Our hope is to engage the viewers and ask them what topics they would like to see covered for upcoming seasons, and take that into account when we are moving forward with plans for the future.
We care very much what our core audience of "thought provocateurs" thinks and they are very vocal and loyal about the topics we are covering so pleasing the core and working the edges is key for us at the network.
For even MORE penetrating questions, I talked with time travel enthusiast, Wormhole contributor, and expert in Theoretical Physics and Astrophysics at the Moore Center for Theoretical Cosmology and Physics at Cal Tech, Sean Carroll.
How do you feel about the implications about the existence of the "soul" vis-a-vis the paranormal?
The laws of physics as we know them don't seem to allow for the existence of souls outside the body (or after death). That's why most scientists don't take that possibility very seriously.
Are humans unique in the universe (multiverse)?
I wish I knew! This is a case where we just don't have enough data, or good enough theories, to make a judgment. It's possible we are unique, but it's also possible that life forms like ourselves are extremely common.
How close are we to a theory combining gravity and quantum mechanics?
I wish I knew that one, too. We have a theory that seems to do exactly that - string theory. The problem is that string theory is hard to analyze, and very hard to connect to the real world. So we don't really know whether it's the "right" theory. But we're definitely making progress.
Perhaps they'll have all the answers by next season.